EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With two public speakers in the meeting asking board members to reconsider their stances that they indicated in last month’s meeting and this week’s earlier work session, the Board of Education vote came 3-2 in support of an alternate calendar from the most popularly voted option amongst three choices sent out by Gilmer Schools to parents and teachers.
Last month, board member Ronald Watkins voiced opinions to set suggested restrictions on Calendars sent in by school governance teams for consideration by the board. The process over recent years has usually culminated with the board approving the most popularly voted calendar. As the process has changed to include restricted voting and the exclusion of students in the vote this year, Watkins brought up the idea of telling schools not to submit calendars with teachers not coming back for the new year before August 1. With some support indicated and agreement from board members Joe Pflueger and Michael Parks, the vote came today with these three in favor of a less popular calendar for the school system. Michael Bramlett and Doug Pritchett voted against the calendar.
Additionally, before the vote, the Board listened as two public speaks both commented to the board in favor of the more popular Calendar 3. Lynne Barnes, a teacher from Ellijay Elementary School, said that teachers and parents have little that they directly influence. While citizens as a whole can vote on Board Members, teachers specifically have enjoyed and been afforded the opportunity to vote on the annual calendars. She said, “When that voice is not recognized, it truly is disheartening because I am a parent and a teacher. A school calendar directly affects parents’ and teachers’ lives. We should be able to choose through a democratic process without interference from the board.”
Barnes said that the submitted calendar followed all restrictions set forth by the board but did not follow the suggested starting date. Barnes went on to say that the other calendars do not meet start date. She said, “There are flex days on those calendars. Every teacher would have to use one of the flex days before August 1 as one of the required 10 staff days. So, none of the calendars meet this requirement at all.”
Barnes also noted that while board members suggested the start date, the majority of the public disagreed and did not want to follow the suggestion as the majority of all voters from the public, voted for Calendar 3, besting the next one by over 111 votes. “This was not a close vote at all” said Barnes.
As reported earlier this week, the results between the three presented included 295 votes (38.22%) for Calendar 1, 71 votes (9.2%) for Calendar 2, and 406 votes (52.59%) for Calendar 3.
The second speaker, Kayanne West, a parent of a student and member of Clear Creek Elementary School Governance Team, echoed many of the statements of Barnes saying she was also speaking in support of Calendar 3. West echoed the sentiment of the vote saying it is an “injustice” to ignore the vote and very disheartening. West said that simply because Calendar 3 did not follow the start date is “just not a good enough reason not to vote for Calendar 3.”
West went on to add that there is so little time before class for teachers to prepare their classrooms, open house, attend meetings, and be ready for students. She said that not allowing teachers to start before August 1 pushes back their preparation time with a start date still looming on potentially August 5. She added that Clear Creek Elementary will be in a totally new building that teachers should have more days and a chance to start before August 1 in order to move into the building and familiarize themselves with the new building.
West asked the board to either vote for the more popular Calendar 3, but said, should the board choose not to support that calendar, she hoped to see the board at CCES on August 1 as teachers will have to take long hours in order to accomplish all the need to before students come back to class.
Similarly, when she spoke, Barnes told the Board before she finished that she felt not supporting the popular vote sends a very different message to the public.
After these two spoke at the beginning of the meeting, the board continued with their agenda, going through personnel before reaching the calendar for 2021-2022. Board member Ronald Watkins nominated Calendar 1. He looked to his two previous supporters as he asked for a motion. The motion came from Michael Parks with a second from Joe Pflueger, and the aforementioned final vote of 3-2.